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Deflating the Taxis

Los Angeles International Airport is the last place in the city where traditional taxicabs don't have to face competition from the likes of Uber and Lyft. It's been a good run for them, but it looks like that last pillar is about to fall.

The cab services have enjoyed a monopoly on personal transport and as a result, complacency has led to degraded and unreliable service where prices aren't pressured. They take advantage of the fact that each bad cabbie is shielded by obscurity; you call a cab, not a specific driver. Sometimes it's perfectly fine, other times it's downright hostile. Uber and Lyft are offering competition which requires the taxis to be more competitive. While (like a taxi) you still don't choose a particular Uber driver (at least not typically), the service as a whole is cheaper, more reliable, and pleasant, so it's clear to see why they're succeeding.

One area where Uber (and to a lesser extent, Lyft) have absotely nailed is the payment system. You pay on your phone automatically at the conclusion of the ride. No tips (Lyft does allow for tips). No arguing over the fare. No chance that the driver "forgets" to start the meter. No cabbie yelling at you because you don't have $50 in cash on hand and want to pay by credit card. Split the fare amongst everyone with 2 taps. Rate the driver. It's a system designed around the passenger experience. What a revelation! They even have a mechanism by which the drivers can rate the passengers to help weed out unruly patrons.

The beautiful irony is that the same municipal restrictions which the cabbies fought for to give them their monopoly are now the chains by which they're bound, leaving them unable to adapt quickly to their new threats. This is pretty much the definition of disruption, and the taxis are a perfect example of what will happen if you're not constantly vigilant and nimble enough to adapt your business. Never be content with where you are.

While the taxi companies are complaining and scrambling to adapt, Uber and Lyft are taking money, expanding, and basking in the goodwill of passengers everywhere who finally have an option that doesn't suck.


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